Origins And Evolution

Ephemeroptera are among the oldest known winged insects still extant. Carboniferous fossils have been ascribed to mayfly precursors or even mayflies. Permian data confirm that the order was already present at the end of the Paleozoic. Ephemeroptera reached their highest diversity during the Mesozoic, mainly in the Jurassic and Cretaceous. All these species belong to extinct families. The Tertiary fauna, as documented by for instance Baltic amber, is undeniably modern, with both the extinct and living genera of modern families.

The relationship of Ephemeroptera with other modern winged insects is still a subject of debate. Together with the Odonata, mayflies were traditionally placed in the Paleoptera, which was considered the sister group of all other extant primarily winged orders. More recently, it was suggested that Ephemeroptera per se are the sister group of Odonata + Neoptera. This idea is based on a number of features unique to mayflies, such as the presence of a subimaginal stage, the nonfunctionality of the adult mouthparts, and the presence of only one axillary plate in the wing articulation. This hypothesis is also supported by anatomical data: female mayflies exhibit telotrophic meroistic ovaries instead of panoistic ones as found in Odonata.

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